port of harlem magazine
mike jones state farm
Black Businesses Devalued Just As Are Black Homes
March 12 – March 25, 2020

andre perry

A new report finds that businesses, just like homes, are devalued in majority-Black neighborhoods. Specifically, the study reveals that highly rated businesses in Black neighborhoods (as measured by Yelp ratings) experience slower revenue growth than poorly rated businesses in otherwise similar neighborhoods. The study’s lead author and researcher, Andre Perry, said one of the results is “that highly-rated businesses in Black-majority neighborhoods experience annual losses in business revenue as high as $3.9 billion.”

Generally, businesses in Black neighborhoods receive lower Yelp ratings and less attention from customers. Similar to voting and Census participation rates, the number of reviews per business sharply falls as the ZIP code’s Black population increases.

Furthermore, says Perry, locating in a Black-majority neighborhood eliminates the advantage of being a highly rated business. In Black-majority neighborhoods, poorly rated establishments grow at roughly the same low rate as highly rated establishments.  Perry summed this quandary with consumers having a “dim view of Black neighborhoods.”

The report echoed a similar 2018 report that showed that homes in Black-majority neighborhoods experience devaluation due to racial bias at a rate of 23% on average, when compared to similar homes in otherwise similar White neighborhoods. Perry, Jonathan Rothwell, and David Harshbarger conducted both studies with the backing of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program (Brookings Metro) and Gallup.

During a Five-Star Reviews, One-Star Profits: The Devaluation of Businesses in Black Communities presentation on the findings at the Brookings Institution, much of the two-hour panel presentation focused on the challenges small and Black businesses, and non-Black businesses operating in Black communities face.

Martha Legg Miller, Director of the Office of the Advocate for Small Business Capital Formation, said the challenges are the same as with other business.  “Same set of challengers, they just hit harder,” she concluded.

Tynesia Boyea-Robinson, President and CEO of CapEQ Impact Investing Advisors, added a jugular that made some think how we evaluate Black business wisdom. “Side hustles show strong entrepreneurship,” she affirmed.

Kesha Cash, Founder of Impact America, an investment company, provides one bright spot in the effort to harness the community’s energy into wealth. “Working as a collective, they have put 20 million in cash back into the pockets of independent hairstylist,” she said of one company Impact of America has helped fund, Mayveen

On the historic shoulders of Madam CJ Walker and George Johnson, Diishan Imira is meeting the needs of contemporary buyers of Black hair care.  Mayveen is similar to Home Advisor, Uber, and other web-based “matching” companies that connect buyers and sellers. Most of the arrangements between Mayveen, the buyer, and the stylists are via text.

With Mayveen, the certified stylist “installs” the hair that the consumer purchases from Mayveen. Their best selling items include Brazilian Straight, Peruvian Straight, Virgin Brazilian Straight, Dyed Virgin Indian Straight, and Virgin Malaysian Body Wave hair.

However, some of the most insightful thoughts came from European-American Tony Tomelden, who runs several Washington, DC eateries that Port Of Harlem would not classify as being in Black neighborhoods including The Pug (H Street, NE), Brookland’s Finest (Brookland), and Union Trust (White House).  Nevertheless, he urged policy makers to connect the dots and look wholistically when making policies by “looking at minimum wage, affordable housing, and access to transportation.”  He spoke of minimum wage employees who have to travel from exurbs, where housing in cheaper, to the urban center for work.

And though Tomelden is strongly in favor of minimum wage increases, he says it does limit the number of entry level jobs he and other small businesses can create and it provides unfair advantages to large businesses that have the resources to replace humans with new technologies such as those that take food orders and settle bills. “Don’t get me started with their technological advantage,” he told Port Of Harlem.
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